We all know about small, medium and large. Coach, Business, and First Class. And then there's urgent, critical, and life-threatening. At Mosaic, we have three stages, too: rare and historically important; acclaimed milestone; and undeniably monumental epic masterpiece.
We've uncovered another one of those epic masterpieces.
We are pleased to announce Charles Mingus - The Jazz Workshop Concerts 1964-65 (Town Hall, Amsterdam, Monterey & Minneapolis). It chronicles the essential live performances of this genius of modern music as his compositions achieved a depth and complexity we would come to know as Mingus's most signature work. It includes (on the earlier recordings) the brilliant Eric Dolphy, along with Jaki Byard, Dannie Richmond, Johnny Coles, and Clifford Jordan — certainly one of the best assemblages of musicians ever.
The music ranges from his interpretations of Ellington, tributes to his musicians ("Praying With Eric"), an exuberant celebration of Art Tatum and Fats Waller by Jaki Byard, an enormously ambitious portrait of bop called Parkeriana," and Mingus's own spectaculars: Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk;" Meditations," Fable of Faubus," and So Long Eric."
Mosaic's box set includes an essay and track by track analysis by Mingus biographer Brian Priestly and many rare photographs from the concerts. Like all of Mosaic's sets, our release is strictly limited. Our last Mingus set sold out and will never be available again. Please order yours. This is truly a find worth hearing, worth savoring, and worth collecting.
he must be ranked among the greatest of jazz composers," wrote Time Magazine about Mingus's 25-minute masterwork, Meditations for a Pair of Wire Cutters."
The audience gasped when it suddenly ended," wrote Newsweek, and roared their approval over and over as Mingus, pacified, like a big happy bear hugged his musicians."
Monterey belonged to Charles Mingus, wrote The San Francisco Chronicle. It was a triumph."
Said Mingus himself: On stage, I could feel the presence of my musicians like they were touching meâ€¦. I just wish I could give you that picture, that moment at Monterey along with the music."
At the Monterey Jazz Festival, September 20, 1964 © Ray Avery/CTSIMAGES
Charles Mingus was, among other things, a force of nature akin to a typhoon. The term larger than life" is probably overused, but in this case it applies. Physically, Mingus had heft. When he wrapped his body around his bass, miracles happened. A technical virtuoso, Mingus had a huge, rich sound. His swing was so powerful that it felt like his bass was propelling the music in free fall.
If he’d never written a note, his place in jazz history would have been assured. But the fact is that he was one of the most original, exciting and vivid composers of the 20th century. His method of teaching his sidemen music orally gave his music a passionate edge. He performed dazzlingly complex music with both precision and a freewheeling looseness.
I first heard him at the Five Spot with Charles McPherson, Lonnie Hillyer, Jaki Byard and Dannie Richmond. Now that was a rhythm section. Mingus would lead the band with a momentous swinging bass part, become one with Byard and Richmond and push McPherson and Hillyer beyond what they believed that they could do.
The quintet was on an extended stint there and I went often. Never one to compartmentalize his life, Mingus would, on some nights, get on a rant about politics, the music business or race relations. He was a socially conscious man who did not separate his art from his beliefs.
Everything he played or wrote or said, he did with passion. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter decided to give jazz its due and mounted an all-star jazz festival on the White House lawn. Most of the jazz community was fairly awestruck by this whole affair. By then, Mingus was in the throes of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), confined to a wheelchair and unable to play. But he came to the White House that day.
At one point, Stan Getz was on stage playing Lush Life" and Dexter Gordon and I were standing next to Mingus’s chair. I happened to glance down and tears were streaming down his face." – Michael Cuscuna
Mingus, Eric Dolphy, Johnny Coles and Clifford Jordan at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, April 10, 1964 Photograph by Nico van der Stam, courtesy of Nico van der Stam/MAI
Rememberances by Sue Mingus
Jaki Byard: Piano There was never a better pianist in Mingus bands (unless you count MIngus himself) who could respond so totally to his needs. Jaki covered the waterfront. Charles never found anyone equal to his range and talent. It was revealing to see, many years later, that one of Jaki’s own complex improvised solos, when transcribed from recording to paper for a performance by a new Mingus band was too difficult, or perhaps too boring for him to read and play on the piano. He couldn’t do it— repeat himself. – Sue Mingus
Johnny Coles: Trumpet
Johnny Coles’s sound was so special Dexter Gordon called him the holy man." We are fortunate the Concertgeboux performance in Amsterdam was recorded as Coles took ill shortly thereafter, was hospitalized in Paris, and was unable to travel for the rest of Mingus’s European tour. (As it is, there are all too few of his recordings available.) In Paris the band placed a stool on stage where Coles would have performed. Like Clifford Jordan, he was an early member of the Mingus Dynasty band in the l980s. He died alone and nearly indigent in l997 in Philadelphia at the age of 71.
Eric Dolphy: Alto Saxophone, Bass Clarinet, Flute
Eric Dolphy died in Berlin in July, l964, the week I met Mingus at the Five Spot in New York. The following week a substitute bassist was on stage at the club: Mingus had flown out to Los Angeles for Eric's funeral. The impact on him was similar to the loss felt by the entire musical community. Charles named his son Eric and dedicated an extended work to Dolphy's memory called So Long Eric" which originally acknowledged Eric's exit from Mingus's band but ended as a farewell to life itself. There is a memorable exchange between the two of them which took place a few months earlier on a recording called Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus," in which their instruments become human voices arguing about Eric's impending departure. Mingus and Lonnie Hillyer have a similarly notable exchange in Themeless Blues" in this collection.
Lonnie Hillyer: Trumpet
Mingus attributed Lonnie’s ability to hear so astutely to the size of his ears. He regularly pushed his sidemen to go beyond themselves and believed Lonnie could play an octave higher if he worked at it— anything was possible with work. Lonnie would modestly deny his talents ("I was so dumb in school," he said, I got straight A’s in Dumb.") They were talking about creativity; Charles had reminded everyone there also could be CREATIVITY IN STUPIDITY.
Clifford Jordan: Tenor saxophone
Following the l964 European tour Jordan and Mingus stayed in touch although their musical paths diverged.Their studios were not far from one another in Manhattan and Clifford occasionally dropped by to visit. I still remember— at a time when Mingus was performing Fables of Faubus" and speaking out about civil rights abuses from the stage— Clifford appearing at the door with a stained red and brown wooden stick from the Klu Klux Klan that had a notch for every murder—testimony too unspeakable to throw away. Years later Clifford was an early member of the Mingus Dynasty band with Mingus alumni Roland Hanna and Randy Brecker.
Chrles McPherson: Alto Saxophone
McPherson had the easiest time with Mingus of any musician I knew. Nothing McPherson did seemed to rile or ruffle Mingus who loved the sound of Bird which the young alto player from Detroit brought to the band. Recently I read some revealing comments McPherson made about Mingus in an interview: He was painfully honest... confrontational.... he didn’t edit anything. Whatever he thought he said. He was always in and out of trouble with people. But that was interesting to watch…. Working with Mingus was never a dull moment….Musically, you never knew what was going to happen... Once you got to know him you realized that, as volatile as he was, there was a core of decency about him. And that comes through when you know him. He had a sense of ethics, of what’s fair."
Dannie Richmond: Drums
Dannie was Charles’s heartbeat: his crisp accompaniments to Charles's music existed in some magic stratosphere they inhabited together. Dannie had the longest tenure with Mingus: 17 years. When people called him Rich Man he would respond Pover-tee in Person" which always annoyed Charles as he thought he was complaining about his salary. A man of style and precision, immaculately dressed, he perfected the art of folding and packing his flawless wardrobe inside a small suitcase and once invited us to his hotel room for a demonstration. He died in 1988 in a hotel in New York enroute to join the Mingus Dynasty band in Europe. He was 56 years old, the same age at which Mingus died.